Investigators on Tuesday were trying to determine what motivated a 21-year-old man, charged in the shooting at a Boulder, Colo., grocery store, to take the lives of 10 people, in the second mass shooting in the United States in less than a week.
The gunman was armed with both a military-style semiautomatic rifle and a pistol when he walked into the King Sooper’s store on Monday and opened fire, officials said. They identified the suspect who was arrested at the scene as Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, who lived in Arvada, a nearby suburb; he was charged on Tuesday with 10 counts of first-degree murder, which in Colorado carries a penalty of life imprisonment without parole.
A police affidavit made public on Tuesday said that last week he bought a Ruger AR-556 semiautomatic pistol — essentially a shortened version of an AR-15 style rifle, which fires the same small-caliber, high-velocity ammunition, first developed for battlefield use. Statements from the police and the charging documents did not make fully clear what models of weapons he used in the attack, and whether the Ruger was one of them.
The suspect’s identity was previously known to the F.B.I. because he was linked to another individual under investigation by the bureau, according to law enforcement officials.
When he was a senior at Arvada West High School, Mr. Alissa was convicted in 2018 of misdemeanor assault against another student in a classroom, and told the police at the time that it was in retaliation for insults and ethnic taunts. Fellow students recall him as having a fierce temper that would flare in response to setbacks or slights.
Mr. Alissa’s brother described him to the Daily Beast as mentally ill, paranoid and antisocial.
Among the victims of the massacre on Monday was Officer Eric Talley, 51, with the Boulder Police Department, who had responded to a “barrage” of 911 calls about the shooting, Chief Maris Herold said.
The authorities identified the nine additional victims as Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.
Chief Herold said at a news conference that police officers had run into the King Soopers grocery store within minutes of the shooting and had shot at the suspect. No other officers were injured during the response, she said. She said Mr. Alissa was taken to a hospital for treatment of a leg injury
Court records show he was born in Syria in 1999, as did a Facebook page that appeared to belong to the suspect, giving his name as Ahmad Al Issa; the page was taken down within an hour of his name being released by the authorities. Michael Dougherty, the Boulder County district attorney, said the suspect had “lived most of his life in the United States.”
Mr. Alissa was a wrestler in high school and the Facebook page listed wrestling and kickboxing as being among his interests, and many of the posts were about martial arts. One, in 2019, said simply, “#NeedAGirlfriend.”
The shooting came just six days after another gunman’s deadly shooting spree at massage parlors in the Atlanta area.
“Flags had barely been raised back to full mast after the tragic shooting in Atlanta that claimed eight lives, and now a tragedy here, close to home, at a grocery store that could be any of our neighborhood grocery stores,” Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis, said at the news conference.
He noted that he was “someone who has called this community my home for most of my whole life and who has shopped at that King Soopers in Table Mesa many times.”
Chief Herold said the coroner’s office had identified all of the victims and notified their families before 4 a.m. Tuesday.
Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado said mass shootings could not be the “new normal.”
“In this year of separation due to Covid, of loss and of loneliness, grocery stores like King Soopers have been one of our consistent gathering places, one of the few routine activities that we’ve continued to engage in as Coloradans and as Americans,” Mr. Neguse said. “It’s hard to describe what it means for this safe place to see a horrible tragedy like this unfold.”
A video streamed live from outside of the grocery store on Monday had appeared to show a suspect — handcuffed, shirtless and with his right leg appearing to be covered in blood — being taken from the building by officers.
Employees and shoppers inside the grocery store described a harrowing scene.
“I thought I was going to die,” said Alex Arellano, 35, who was working in the store’s meat department when he heard a series of gunshots and saw people running toward an exit.
The authorities in Boulder, Colo., on Tuesday identified the 10 victims of the grocery store shooting.
Among the victims was Officer Eric Talley, 51, with the Boulder Police Department, who had responded to a “barrage” of 911 calls about the shooting. Authorities identified the nine other people who were killed as Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.
Here is what we know about the victims so far.
‘Brought life to the family’
Rikki Olds, a 25-year-old who loved the outdoors, was a front-end manager at King Soopers, where she had worked for about seven or eight years, her uncle, Robert Olds, said in an interview.
Ms. Olds had persevered, despite hardship, he said. She was the oldest of three siblings, and her mother had abandoned her when she was seven years old — dropping her off at the doorstep of her grandparents, who raised her in Lafayette, Colo.
The whole family is in shock, particularly Ms. Olds’ grandmother, Mr. Olds said. “My mom was her mom,” he said. “My mom raised her.”
A veteran police officer
Eric Talley, an 11-year veteran of the Boulder Police Department, was described as “heroic” by Chief Maris Herold at a news conference at the scene of the shooting on Monday night.
“He was the first on the scene, and he was fatally shot,” Chief Herold said, holding back tears.
“The world lost a great soul,” said Officer Talley’s father, Homer Talley. “He was a devoted father — seven kids. The youngest was 7 and the oldest was 20, and his family was the joy of his life.”
Officer Talley joined the police force as a second career when he was 40, quitting a job in cloud communications, his father said in an interview on Tuesday morning.
A former magazine photo director
Lynn Murray, 62, a former photo director, was at the grocery store on Monday filling an Instacart order, which she had enjoyed doing to help people since her retirement.
Ms. Murray was former photo director for several New York City magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Glamour, her husband said. The couple moved from New York in 2002, first to Stuart, Fla., then to Colorado, to raise their children.
“I just want her to be remembered as just as this amazing, amazing comet spending 62 years flying across the sky,” said her husband, John Mackenzie. She is also survived by two children: Olivia and Pierce.
A shop manager, newly engaged
Tralona Lynn “Lonna” Bartkowiak, 49, managed a shop in Boulder that sold yoga and festival clothing, and had stopped by the shopping center to pick up a prescription, said her brother, Michael Bartkowiak of Roseburg, Ore.
Mr. Bartkowiak described his sister, the eldest of four close-knit, California-born siblings, as “just a beam of light.” She had moved to Boulder to run the store, Umba, which had been launched by their sister.
“She rented a house outside Boulder,” he said, “and lived there with her little Chihuahua, Opal. She had just gotten engaged.”
A longtime grocery employee
Teri Leiker, 51, had worked for about 30 years at King Soopers, according to her friend, Alexis Knutson, 22.
Ms. Knutson met Ms. Leiker through a program called Best Buddies that connects students at University of Colorado Boulder and members of the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Despite their age difference, Ms. Knutson said, they bonded and would talk often. “I always had a rule she couldn’t call before 9 a.m. because I like my sleep,” she said.
Ms. Knutson struggled to comprehend what had happened. “The fact that this happened is just devastating, especially somewhere where she goes to work every day,” she said.
His daughter’s hero
Kevin Mahoney, 61, died in the shooting, according to his daughter, Erika Mahoney, the news director for KAZU Public Radio in the Monterey, Calif., area.
“I am heartbroken to announce that my Dad, my hero, Kevin Mahoney, was killed in the King Soopers shooting in my hometown of Boulder, CO,” she said on Twitter. “My dad represents all things Love. I’m so thankful he could walk me down the aisle last summer.”
A grocery worker who enjoyed hunting
Denny Stong, 20, had worked at King Soopers for several years. A high school friend described him as one of the kindest people she had ever met.
Molly Proch said they had spent free time together at Fairview High School in Boulder.
She said Mr. Stong enjoyed hunting and was a strong supporter of the Second Amendment but also supported strengthening certain gun regulations. “He was so passionate about expressing how he thought the government should handle weapons,” to avoid mass shootings, she said. “And then this is how he’s not here anymore.”
Mr. Stong had recently posted on his Facebook page, encouraging friends to donate to the National Foundation for Gun Rights Inc. for his birthday.
President Biden said Tuesday that he was “devastated” by the killing of 10 people at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., and called on Congress not to “wait another minute” in enacting legislation to ban assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
“This is not and should not be a partisan issue — it is an American issue,” a somber Mr. Biden said in brief remarks delivered in the State Dining Room at the White House. “We have to act.”
The attack in Colorado, in which a gunman killed 10 people, including a police officer, came less than a week after another gunman killed eight people in Atlanta. Mr. Biden noted that he had to draft a proclamation on Monday to keep — not lower — the White House flags at half-staff, because they had already been lowered to honor the victims killed in Atlanta.
“Another American city has been scarred by gun violence and the resulting trauma,” he said.
Before March 16, it had been a year since there had been a large-scale shooting in a public place. In 2018, the year that a gunman killed 17 people and injured 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., there were 10 mass shootings in which four or more people were killed in a public setting.
The following year, when a gunman targeting Latinos in El Paso, Texas, killed 22 people, there were nine such shootings. “Those were the worst years on record,” said Jillian Peterson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., and a co-founder of the Violence Project, a research center that studies gun violence.
But before the shootings in Atlanta last week, there had been no such killings since March 2020, according to the Violence Project.
“Atlanta was a week ago and now it’s Boulder,” said Meredith Johnson, a 25-year-old Boulder resident, on Monday as she was walking on a sidewalk across the street from the King Soopers grocery store where the shooting occurred. “What is it going to be two weeks from now?”
Earlier on Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking at an event in Washington, praised the “heroism” of Eric Talley, a Boulder Police officer killed while responding to the shooting. Mr. Biden also praised the officer’s efforts and offered his condolences to his “close, close family” of seven children.
Mr. Biden had not made gun control a legislative priority during the first weeks of his presidency, but his tone on Wednesday seemed to signal a shift. He called on the Senate to quickly pass two House bills, passed earlier this year and first introduced after the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school, that extend background checks to private sellers and extend the time limit to conduct checks on purchasers.
Mr. Biden said it was wrong “to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future.”
Maggie Montoya was in the pharmacy distributing coronavirus vaccine shots when the first gunshot cut through the busy aisles of the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo.
“Active shooter!” screamed a store manager who had been lined up for her own vaccination, and everyone scattered, Ms. Montoya, 25, recalled on Tuesday morning.
One person waiting in line for a vaccination was shot dead, Ms. Montoya said, and she and her co-workers raced for cover in back rooms behind the pharmacy counter. Ms. Montoya and another co-worker, huddled in what the pharmacy team calls the counseling room, dialed 911.
But as gunshots boomed just outside the door, Ms. Montoya decided she had a more urgent call to make. “I hung up and called my parents instead,” she said. “I wanted to hear their voice, for them to hear my voice in case it was the last time. I just told them I loved them and I had to go.”
Ms. Montoya heard the shooter yelling something indistinct as she hid in the counseling room, then the blare of a police loudspeaker as officers ordered him to surrender. Ms. Montoya recalls him saying, “I surrender. I’m naked.”
As they waited to be rescued, she got on the phone with her boyfriend, and he narrated the chaotic scene outside — officers rushing to the building, SWAT units descending on the roof.
Eventually, the police cleared the supermarket of threats and led Ms. Montoya and her colleagues through the bloody aisles and out of the building, urging them to avert their eyes.
But not far from the cash registers at the entrance, Ms. Montoya said she recognized the body of a co-worker, a head clerk who had regularly visited the stressed-out pharmacy workers throughout the pandemic to check in. Her co-worker, whom she declined to name, had just gotten vaccinated and was excited about plans to get a new tattoo.
A professional runner, Ms. Montoya had moved to Boulder for its active running scene and world-class trails. But on Tuesday, her father was flying into Colorado to help her gather some things and leave so she could be with her family. She said she spent the past hours replaying again and again the bloodshed she saw inside the store.
“Just reliving,” she said.
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, the man accused of killing 10 people in a grocery store attack in Colorado, had a history of angry outbursts, according to police records and people who knew him, including one that resulted in a misdemeanor assault conviction when he was still in high school.
According to a police affidavit, just a week ago, he bought a Ruger AR-556 pistol — essentially a shortened version of an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.
On Monday, law enforcement officials say, Mr. Alissa, 21, who lived in Arvada, Colo., went to a King Soopers store in nearby Boulder and killed 10 people.
And a man who identified himself as Mr. Alissa’s older brother described him to the Daily Beast as mentally ill, antisocial and paranoid.
When he was a senior at Arvada West High School, he beat up another student during a class, leading to the assault conviction; a fellow student said he flew into a rage “out of nowhere.”
A police report from the November 2017 incident said he “got up in classroom, walked over to victim & ‘cold cocked’ him in the head,” knocking him to the floor, and then “punched him in head several more times.” The report said Mr. Alissa stated that the other student had “made fun of him and called him racial names weeks earlier.”
Others also recalled examples of Mr. Alissa’s temper, sometimes in response to slights.
Mr. Alissa, a wrestler, had friends in high school, but also had an anger problem, said a classmate, Brooke Campbell, who was the wrestling team manager. “When he’d lose wrestling matches, when it’s something not that important, he’d get too angry,” she said.
“It’s scary, you know, looking back, that you knew someone that was capable of those things, or is now,” Ms. Campbell said of the shooting.
The police affidavit, released on Tuesday, said Mr. Alissa bought the Ruger firearm on March 16, and that his brother’s girlfriend saw him playing with what she thought looked like a machine gun just two days before the shooting. The authorities have said he had a rifle and a pistol with him during the assault, but it is not clear if one of those weapons was the Ruger bought last week.
He was charged on Tuesday with 10 counts of first-degree murder, which in Colorado carries a penalty of death or life in prison without parole. Officials have not suggested a motive for the crime.
Michael Dougherty, the Boulder County district attorney, said the suspect had “lived most of his life in the United States.” Both the suspect’s criminal record and a Facebook page that appeared to belong to him say he was born in Syria in 1999.
The police affidavit described Mr. Alissa as standing 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds. That is far more than the 140 pounds listed from his arrest in November 2017, when he was a high school senior; a few months later he was found guilty of third-degree assault, and sentenced to probation and community service.
Mr. Alissa apparently had a serious interest in martial arts. The Facebook page listed wrestling and kickboxing as being among his interests, and many of the posts were about martial arts. One Facebook post, in 2019, said simply, “#NeedAGirlfriend.”
The page said he had studied computer engineering at Metropolitan State University of Denver, but a university spokesman, Timothy Carroll, said the suspect “is not nor has ever been an MSU Denver student.” The Facebook page was taken down within an hour of Mr. Alissa’s name being released by the authorities.
The suspect’s identity was known to the F.B.I. because he was linked to another individual under investigation by the bureau, according to law enforcement officials.
The city of Boulder enacted bans on assault-style weapons and large-capacity magazines in 2018 following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. But a state district court judge ruled this month that Boulder could not enforce the bans.
Law enforcement officials said on Tuesday that the gunman who killed 10 people at the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder on Monday used an AR-15-type rifle, a kind of weapon that the city ordinances were intended to restrict.
Judge Andrew Hartman ruled that under a state law passed in 2003, cities and counties are barred from adopting restrictions on firearms that are otherwise legal under state and federal law, The Denver Post reported. Gun advocates made that argument when they sued to overturn the Boulder bans shortly after they were adopted.
The judge rejected the city’s arguments that the home-rule provisions of the state constitution gave it the power to adopt the bans as a matter of local concern, and that they were necessary because the state did not regulate such weapons. As of last week, lawyers for the city had not said whether they planned to appeal.
An assault weapons ban in Denver was allowed to stand by the Colorado Supreme Court in 2006. But the circumstances were somewhat different. Among other things, Denver’s ban, unlike Boulder’s, had already been on the books for years when the 2003 state law was passed.
An appeals court found that Denver had the right to adopt reasonable gun regulations despite that law. When the decision was appealed, the State Supreme Court deadlocked 3-3 with one recusal. That left the appellate decision, and the Denver ban, in place, but it did not set a binding precedent for other cases.
Boulder’s ban is also being challenged in federal court on constitutional grounds.
The shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., that left 10 people dead came after a year in which the pandemic made supermarkets a dangerous place for employees, who risked falling ill with the coronavirus and often had to confront combative customers who refused to wear masks.
“They’ve experienced the worst of the worst,” said Kim Cordova, who represents more than 25,000 grocery and other workers in Colorado and Wyoming — including those at the King Sooper store that was attacked — as the president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.
At least 853 grocery store employees in Colorado have had the virus during the pandemic, according to outbreak data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The state does not list any infections at the store that was the site of the shooting, but Ms. Cordova said that all grocery store employees had risked their safety when they came to work and were confronted by hostile shoppers.
“They’ve seen horrible behavior by customers — spitting on them, slapping them, refusing to wear masks — but they were the first to be heroes,” Ms. Cordova said.
The union, U.F.C.W., which also represents meatpacking employees and other workers, said in a statement that at least four of its members in Colorado had died of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, and that at least 155 grocery workers across the country have died.
Ms. Cordova said her union had pushed for more security in grocery stores as customers grew more aggressive. And while she cautioned that it was not yet clear what the motive of the gunman was, she said grocery store workers have increasingly come under threat on the job since the pandemic began.
“We have seen this behavior become more aggressive and violent,” she said, “and this has really traumatized these employees.”
There have been dozens of mass shootings in the United States in just the past five years, according to the Violence Project, which maintains a database of attacks in which at least four people were killed.
Each new attack is a reminder of all of the others that came before it, as the nation has been unable to curb an epidemic of gun violence that far outpaces other countries. The bleak reality of a list like this is that it leaves out so many more, in addition to the mass shootings in Boulder and the Atlanta area over the last week.
Aug. 4, 2019: An entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio
Armed with an AR-15-style rifle and body armor, a gunman killed nine people and wounded 27 others in 32 seconds in a bustling entertainment district before he was fatally shot by a police officer.
Aug. 3, 2019: A Walmart in El Paso, Texas
Just 13 hours before the Dayton attack, a gunman prowled the aisles of a Walmart in El Paso, a majority-Hispanic border city, killing 23 people and wounding about two dozen others.
Oct. 27, 2018: A synagogue in Pittsburgh.
In one of the deadliest attacks against the Jewish community in the United States, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 congregants and wounding six others. The gunman shot indiscriminately at worshipers for several minutes.
Feb. 14, 2018: A high school in Parkland, Fla.
A 19-year-old man barged into his former high school about an hour northwest of Miami and opened fire on students and teachers, killing 17 people. The shooting prompted a wave of nationwide, student-led protests calling for tighter gun laws.
Nov. 5, 2017: A church in Sutherland Springs, Texas
A gunman with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands stormed into a Sunday church service at a small Baptist church in rural South Texas and sprayed bullets into its pews. He killed 26 people, including nine members of a single family, and left 20 people wounded, many of them severely.
Oct. 1, 2017: A concert in Las Vegas
In one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, a gunman perched on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, smashed the windows of his suite with a hammer and shot at a crowd of 22,000 people at an outdoor country music festival. Fifty-eight people were killed and 887 sustained documented injuries, either from gunfire or while running to safety.
June 12, 2016: The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
A gunman who had proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group attacked a crowded gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando, Fla., killing 50 people and wounding 53 others. After a three-hour standoff following the initial assault, law enforcement officials raided the club and fatally shot the gunman.
Senators quickly splintered along partisan lines over gun control measures on Tuesday as Democrats demanded action in the wake of two mass shootings in the past week and Republicans denounced their calls, highlighting the political divide that has fueled a decades-long cycle of inaction on gun violence.
At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee that was scheduled before shootings in Atlanta and Boulder that left at least 18 people dead, Democrats argued that the latest carnage left Congress no choice but to enact stricter policies. They lamented the grim pattern of anguish and outrage followed by partisanship and paralysis had become the norm following mass shootings.
“In addition to a moment of silence, I would like to ask for a moment of action,” said Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and the chairman of the committee. “A moment of real caring. A moment when we don’t allow others to do what we need to do. Prayer leaders have their important place in this, but we are Senate leaders. What are we doing?”
Even before the recent shootings, Democrats had already begun advancing stricter gun control measures that face long odds in the 50-50 Senate. House Democrats passed two bills this month aimed at expanding and strengthening background checks for gun buyers, by applying them to all gun buyers and extending the time the F.B.I. has to vet those flagged by the national instant check system.
But the twin pieces of legislation passed in the House have been deemed too expansive by most Republicans — only eight House Republicans voted to advance the universal background check legislation. The bills would almost certainly not muster the 60 votes needed to clear a filibuster in the Senate.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the panel, said in his opening remarks that he was hopeful Democrats and Republicans could work together to make “bipartisan, common-sense” progress on gun control. But he said that the House-passed legislation did not fit that bill, since the measures passed almost entirely along party lines.
“That is not a good sign that all voices and all perspectives are being considered,” Mr. Grassley said.
Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, went further, lashing out at Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who said that Republicans had offered “fig leaves” rather than actionable, significant solutions to gun control.
“Every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders,” Mr. Cruz said. “But what they propose — not only does it not reduce crime, it makes it worse.”
The renewed focus on gun control is expected to cast attention back on Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, who opposes dismantling the legislative filibuster but has long labored — fruitlessly — to pass a bipartisan gun control proposal.
Following the 2012 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Manchin brokered a deal with Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, to close legal loopholes that allow people who purchase firearms at gun shows or on the internet to avoid background checks, but proponents were unable to pick up enough support to pass it.
Mr. Manchin told CQ Roll Call earlier this month that he opposed the House-passed universal background check bill, citing its provision requiring checks for sales between private citizens, but said he was interested in reviving the Manchin-Toomey legislation.
The King Soopers grocery store in the Boulder, Colo., neighborhood of Table Mesa was a place that many people in the community knew well — including the state’s governor.
“I’m standing here not just as governor,” Jared Polis, who was born in Boulder, said at a news conference on Tuesday, “but as someone who has called this community my home for most of my life, and who has shopped at that King Soopers in Table Mesa many times.”
The King Soopers store targeted on Monday is one of over a 100 locations in Colorado. With its headquarters located in Denver, the grocery store chain is a subsidiary of grocer giant Kroger.
At least three store employees were among the victims of Monday’s shootings, including Rikki Olds, 25, a front-end manager; Teri Leiker, 51, who had worked there for about 30 years, according to a friend; and Denny Stong, 20.
Others who were in the store at the time of the shooting described panic as shots rang out. “I thought I was going to die,” said Alex Arellano, 35, who was working in the store’s meat department when he heard a series of gunshots and saw people running toward an exit.
Kroger said it was “saddened by the senseless violence” that occurred on Monday in a statement it posted to Twitter, and offered its condolences to its employees and victims’ families. In 2019, following the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso that left at least 20 people dead, Kroger announced it would no longer allow customers to openly carry firearms in its 2,700-plus supermarkets.
Susan Campbell Beachy, Kitty Bennett and Jack Begg contributed research.